Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
|Skip Navigation Links|
Charles Ives, of the New Haven County Bar, died, December 31st, 1880, of paralysis of the brain, after an illness of only two days' duration. He went home from his office, as usual, towards the evening of December 29th, was taken sick that night, and early in the morning of the 31st was dead. Just prior to Christmas he had been engaged in the trial of causes, both to the jury and the court, and was in the midst of a full professional practice when he was so suddenly stricken down.
Mr. Ives was born September 18th, 1815. At the time of his death he had been practicing law uninterruptedly for over thirty-four years.
He represented the town of New Haven in the General Assembly of 1853, and the town of East Haven, where he resided since 1860, in the General Assemblies of 1865, 1867 and 1868. In 1867 he was chairman of the judiciary committee, and in 1868 was Speaker of the House. His long professional career was eminently successful, both to his own credit and gain, and to the benefit of his clients, whose interests he served with great zeal, tenacity and fidelity.
The physical infirmities of Mr. Ives - his bent figure - his face, refined and intellectual, yet indicating the ravages of physical suffering, courageously borne long years before - his slow and difficult walk, with the aid of the inseparable canes - all these are probably known to most lawyers throughout the state. They may not know, however, the fact that, until just after his majority, he was blessed with robust and vigorous health, and with a lithe, wiry, and perfect physical frame. A severe cold, followed by a sharp sickness, with poor and misdirected medical service, prematurely-developed the latent rheumatic tendencies of his system. Misfortunes seldom come singly. During his recovery, while riding out for the fresh air, the horse took fright, and he was thrown with great violence from the carriage and severely injured. This greatly aggravated the rheumatic trouble already rife in his system, and in consequence of it Mr. Ives was bed-ridden for nearly seven years. His chance of life was very small, and his friends often gave up all hopes of his recovery.
At length, however, a constitution, except for a rheumatic tendency, thoroughly sound, an indomitable will, a courage that never gave up, and a strong faith that he was to be and to do something worthy of note, raised him from his bed, and sent him again, though on crutches, into the world of active life. After a short period spent at Sharon Springs, White Sulphur Springs and other places, he gained sufficient strength to apply himself vigorously to work, and, for the remainder of his life, enjoyed as good health as, if not better than, most men of his age.
From boyhood to the time of his death Mr. Ives was led on by a laudable ambition to achieve something which would not soon be forgotten. He had, however, to rely entirely upon himself, for his widowed mother, so far from being able to help him, needed and received his assistance, during that part of his early life which preceded his long illness.
His first ambition, however, lay in the way of literary pursuits. For this reason, when a boy, he chose the trade of a printer, as giving him the means of a livelihood by work which, to some extent at least, he thought would assist him in the development of his literary tastes. Of course he availed himself of all the means of education, in the way of schools and debating clubs, within his reach, but of more consequence was his own zealous and vigorous study, without the aid of instructors. His long sickness did not deter him from his pursuit of literature. The rheumatic trouble did not affect the brain, and while confined to his bed he managed to prosecute his studies, and, among other things, to write various short poems, many of them of undoubted merit, which, in 1843, while still confined to his bed, he collected and published in a book entitled "Chips from the Workshop." The book had a considerable sale, and netted Mr. Ives a modest sum above the cost of publication.
Believing, however, that he was not always to be confined to his sickbed, the necessity of doing something which he could at once coin into money turned his attention, strange to say, to the law. He commenced his legal studies before he could leave his bed, and, as soon as he could, with the assistance of sympathetic and trusting friends, he entered the Yale law school, from which he graduated in 1846. In the same year he was admitted to the bar, and at once opened a law office in New Haven, where he continued to practice until his death.
His success was assured from the first, and he soon began to enjoy a comfortable income from his professional labors. As he has often told the writer, his original idea was not to apply himself entirely to the legal profession, but to acquire by it money enough to pay his debts and necessary expenses, and to devote the remainder of his time and energy to his cherished literary ambition.
In his case, however, it was inevitable that he could not serve both masters, and that, as years went by, all his strength was needed for his professional engagements, and the opportunity to gratify his literary ambition did not arise until just before his death.
The cases in which Mr. Ives was engaged in the Supreme Court, scattered through more than twenty-five volumes of the Connecticut Reports, and the public positions he held, have already made him known to the bar of the state as a man of professional ability, and but few words are needed on this point. It must go without question that no man in the legal profession can greatly succeed unless he greatly work, and Mr. Ives's success furnished no exception to this rule. It may be well, however, to notice briefly the special qualities of mind and character which largely contributed to his special success.
First should be mentioned his natural fitness for literary work. From the outset of his professional career Mr. Ives could always readily and aptly express his ideas, whether to his client at the office, or to the court or jury. Facility of expression, an easy command, of language, sometimes so difficult for others to attain, was with Mr. Ives his birthright.
In the next place he was thoroughly honest and candid in dealing with his clients. He never encouraged the litigious spirit. He was not always able to control or restrain it, but he always made a client feel that he was as truly working for him as if he had himself been the client.
Again, Mr. Ives was a very confident man in the advocacy of his opinions. He thoroughly believed his client to have the right of the cause and that the right would prevail. He could hardly argue any interlocutory motion without adverting to the merits of the case. No judge or jury was ever in doubt about the sincerity of his opinions.
He also possessed great versatility of mind. He was quick to see the answer to the arguments from the other side, quick to see the mental reservations of a reluctant witness, and to detect the inconsistencies of a swift witness. After the professional labors of the day he could readily apply his mind to other subjects, especially those of a literary character, which were his delight.
Mr. Ives was always very kind and generous to the junior members of the bar, especially to those who had been compelled to rely upon themselves for their education. No such young lawyer went to his office in vain. At the bar meeting, called to do honor to his memory, the most touching professional tribute there paid was the ready and hearty utterance, from many young lawyers, who had had occasion to appreciate his kindness, of their feeling of personal affection and gratitude.
While Mr. Ives remained in a full and laborious practice to the end, yet, in order to attain the rest required by advancing years, he spent a portion of the winters of 1879 and 1880 at Nassau, in the island of New Providence. He wrote a series of bright and sparkling letters concerning the place and its inhabitants, to a New Haven paper, and the favor with which they were received gave an additional impulse to his natural literary enthusiasm, and the result was a charmingly-written book entitled "Isles of Summer, or Nassau and the Bahamas," delayed in its issue, however, by various causes, until the day after his death.
Mr. Ives was married in 1851 to Catharine M. Osborne, of New Haven, who survives him. He left three children, two daughters, and a son, who bears his name, and is a promising young lawyer of the New Haven bar.
Mr. Ives led a consistent Christian life, and was from his early manhood and through life a communicant in the Congregational denomination.
One of the resolutions adopted by the bar in his memory is altogether too apt and fitting to be omitted from this notice:
"Resolved, That in the death of Charles Ives, Esq., the President of this Bar, the profession has to deplore the loss of one of its oldest and foremost members. A ready speaker, careful in the preparation of his cases, vigilant to protect the interests of his clients, always at his post and punctual to every engagement, his place is one which it will be difficult to fill, and his life furnishes a signal example to his younger brethren of what can be accomplished by earnest endeavor and faithful application to the duties of their calling."